May 25, 2012

Transcript of interview with Sabra Lane, ABC The World Today

ISSUES: Craig Thomson; Tony Abbott’s Bloodlust

EMILY BOURKE: To Canberra now, and the Government’s Leader of the House has seized on comments by the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who’s said this morning that it’s in Craig Thomson’s best interests if he were allowed to leave Parliament.

Anthony Albanese says Mr Abbott’s made the call out of his own self-interest, because he wants to become prime minister.

He’s also says the Opposition Leader’s comments amount to intimidation and are a breach of the Crimes Act.

Mr Albanese has spoken with chief political correspondent Sabra Lane.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, you have to look at what Mr Abbott is doing, not what he says. He is engaged in a self-indulgent action. He is engaged in a daily act of aggression with regard to Mr Thomson. He certainly is showing no concern for anything except his bloodlust for power. Now with regard to the issue of Mr Thomson’s position in Parliament, they have now gone the next step so now going to the step which is actually a breach of Section 28 of the Crimes Act and attempting to suggest that we’ll lay off if you just resign from Parliament.

That is a very serious thing for the Leader of the Opposition to do. It shows yet again his complete disregard for the rule of law, for the separation of powers and for the presumption of innocence and I think he needs to have a good look at himself and the Opposition need to consider the damage that is being done to the political fabric of this country by the nature and the tone of the debate that is going on.

SABRA LANE: You say these comments are a breach of the Crimes Act. What are you going to do about it?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’m not a court and unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I understand the separation of powers and that is something that I’m sure may well be looked at by the appropriate authorities. You can’t go round, the Crimes Act is very clear, about not allowing any intimidation of any kind which hinders or interferes with the free exercise of any political right or duty. That is something that should be borne in mind.

SABRA LANE: Have you spoken with Mr Thomson? Would he like to resign from Parliament? He says that this has taken a toll on him and his family?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: It certainly has taken a toll on him and his family but he is someone who I have spoken to him about expressing my concern that he is basically okay as one human being to another.

He, of course, as you would be aware, declares his innocence of all the allegations that have been made against him.

SABRA LANE: But he hasn’t expressed a desire to you that he wants to go?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh, certainly not.

SABRA LANE: You said yesterday that someone from the Opposition had told you they wanted to take the heat out of this and by midday yesterday you hadn’t seen evidence of it. You also had words with the Opposition’s chief tactician, Christopher Pyne behind the Speaker’s chair during Question Time yesterday. What was that about?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I don’t discuss the private conversations that I have with Mr Pyne but it is correct to say that some in the Opposition have expressed real concern about these issues and suggested that they would do what they could to take the heat out of the debate. I think that anyone who has watched Parliament in recent days would acknowledge that it hasn’t been Parliament’s finest hour. There are many across the political spectrum who recognise that we all have a responsibility to lift up the way that Parliament functions.

I don’t blame any individual but it is the case that the Leader of the Opposition is in a unique position to influence what is the nature of the debate in the Parliament.

SABRA LANE: What is the circuit breaker to this? Is it time to approach Mr Abbott about a truce?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Oh look, I made approaches to the Opposition about getting some more appropriate way of conducting the business of the Parliament. That can’t be enforced. People have to take responsibility for their own actions but you can’t say that you are concerned about the aggression in the Parliament and then continue to engage in it day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute.

SABRA LANE: You’ve said you want to get back to debating business, the proper business of the Parliament by talking about policy and the budget but by doing interviews like this aren’t you just perpetuating the story?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: No, it is important that Tony Abbott’s statements that he has made this morning not just go unchallenged and the fact is that if Tony Abbott is in a position as he said after Greg Wilton committed suicide all those years ago, those tragic events, he spoke about the need to be, have a kinder, gentler Parliament. Well, all of us are in a position to deliver that and I think we should be judged on what we do rather than just what we say.

EMILY BOURKE: The Government’s Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese, speaking there with Sabra Lane.